Eating in Style with Sue Heaser
Once again English polymer clay artist Sue Heaser has teamed
with MindStorm Productions to create an outstanding video,
this time "Dining Room Miniatures in Polymer Clay,"
the 23nd installment in MindStorm's Master Miniaturists series.
Heaser, a 15-year veteran of polymer clay artistry, is the
author of scores of articles and a book on the subject.
Heaser takes the viewer through the creation of:
- A complete roast beef dinner
- Bread and dessert
- China and serving pieces
- Cutlery and napkin rings
- Paintings and clocks for the dining room walls
Sue begins with a review of the simple tools and materials
needed to create her dining room miniatures, including a special
small rolling pin from a cake decorating shop. There is a
special emphasis here on creating one's own special-purpose
tools out of polymer clay. Materials include images cut from
magazines, lace and sieves for texturing clay, and semolina
grain for creating realistic breads. All the work is done
in 1/12 scale, the most common dollhouse scale.
Sue begins with the focal point of a dining room, the food
on the table. The camera lingers over the beautifully crafted
(and well-lit) miniatures that could well inspire a hungry
viewer to head for a real pantry! The central item on the
menu is a luscious roast beef. Sue gives step-by-step instructions
for creating the illusion of a juicy, well-marbled "joint"
of meat, beginning with mixing clay colors to make "the
rather complex meat color inside the roast, so you can slice
it successfully." Realistic grooves indicate string ties
around the roast, tinted varnish makes it look suitably "greasy,"
and thin slices of medium-rare beef lie on the serving platter
next to the glistening roast itself.
Potatoes are a natural part of a roast beef dinner. Heaser
shows us how to create boiled potatoes with a realistic translucency,
varnish them so they look coated with melted butter, and top
them with real dried parsley which has been very finely crumbled.
What about green veggies? Heaser hasn't let down the nutritionists,
for she has included broccoli in the menu. She demonstrates
how to create branched stalks which are baked prior to attaching
the darker green floret heads (made to look realistic by pressing
raw clay through a sieve).
Heaser spends considerable time demonstrating her approach
to miniatures loaves of bread. Here, she mixes real grain
with raw clay to make it more realistic when sliced, a nice
change from the more ordinary approach to miniatures which
would simulated texture on individual "slices" of
bread. After shaping the loaf with her fingers and simple
tools, she proceeds to use artists' pastels to simulate the
many colors that bread dough takes on during baking, She observes:
I love using the pastel powders-you you can get such subtle
effects with them, just like the browning on top of pies and
cakes-absolutely perfect. You could never never get such subtly
effects with paint.
With its top textured with quilt batting, the finished bread
loaf looks good enough to eat. As a bonus, Sue shows us how
to make slices of toast for the morning after the dinner party,
complete with uneven browning marks and smeared-on pats of
All well-rounded dinners need dessert, and Sue comes to the
rescue with a beautiful raspberry meringue. She uses lace
netting to create the characteristic bubbled surface of raspberries,
powdered pastels to imitate the gentle browning of meringue,
and a novel "ingredient" for the slathering of whipped
Heaser turns now to non-perishables. Using a homemade tool
she indents a disk of polymer clay to make a dinner plate
and scallops the edge with a tapestry needle. A serving bowl
is molded over a glass marble and gets its flat, level top
edge with the use of sandpaper after baking. As with the rest
of this video, Sue provides a running commentary about working
with the clay, using one's hands and fingers to manipulate
shapes and using tools to get precise results in small scale.
Cutlery (or "silverware" in the U.S.) is created
using techniques familiar from Sue's "Kitchen Miniatures"
video. Here, Sue shows how to make one's own spoon-forming
tool from clay, how to simulate bone handles, and how to mass-produce
knife blades. "To complete our place setting," she
demonstrates making silver napkin rings from very thin strips
of clay rolled around a knitting needle, embossed with various
tools, and brushed with silver powder.
Decorative touches for the dining room include a painting,
candelabra and clock. The gilded picture frame is decorated
with an embossing tool made from a life-size teaspoon handle
and is brushed with gold powder. The "painting"
is a small picture cut from a magazine. Sue mentions that
alternative frames are worth considering: silver, bronze and
With a twinkle in her eye, Sue says "Let's make our
doll's house dinner more romantic." She creates silver
candelabra by baking the central vertical members on a temporary
armature and adding the separately baked serpentine arms and
candle cups later. She finishes by showing us how to create
realistic yellow tallow candles appropriate for the Victorian
The final object for this dining room is the shelf or mantle
clock. Sue creates the curvy clock body from white clay, attaches
a clock face cut from a magazine and surrounded by a thin
coil of gold clay, and decorates the clock overall with tiny
painted flowers. She stresses the importance of using acrylic
paint and of varnishing the baked clay surface to prevent
bleeding of the paint.
"Dining Room Miniatures in Polymer Clay" ends with
several variations on the projects: a bone-in roast, resembling
a ham; roast potatoes, complete with browned edges; green
beans; a "plated meal" with a serving of each food
ready for eating. We also see assorted shapes and sizes of
breads and scones and a chocolate cake and coffee gateau worthy
of a four-star pastry chef. Variations on non-edibles include
candlesticks; wood, slate and cuckoo clocks; a variety of
serving dishes and a serving platter; and embossed and gilded
Sue Heaser is a masterful instructor whose techniques are
known world wide among miniaturists. This video is a fine
example of the value of combining expertise with enthusiasm
and will be a fine addition to artists' libraries.